[Subsequent note: spraying did occur in West Chester at the scheduled time, but not at WCU, not on S. High St., and because of rain not in the NE part of the Borough.]
Anyone reading this knows that when the County planned to spray West Chester last month, Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing that spraying.
After some verbal and legal back-and-forths, the County has now scheduled spraying again, now for Tuesday evening 9/11, 7:30-11:30 p.m. The affected areas are in the South and Northeast of the Borough (see maps below), impinging on the downtown area where visitors will, as usual, be circulating and enjoying the Borough’s many amenities such as outdoor dining.
This is late in the season to be spraying, and the hot weather on which mosquitoes thrive has now broken (as of Sept. 8), thus presumably reducing mosquito populations soon in any case.
We note some interesting changes of wording in the County press release, which begins:
“Mosquito control treatment scheduled for West Chester Borough to prevent West Nile Virus
“Following the contractual guidelines/agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Chester County Health Department will conduct a mosquito control treatment spray in portions of West Chester Borough on Tuesday, September 11th from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. The rain date for this event is Wednesday, September 12th from 7:30 pm to 11:30pm. The treatment is occurring because of the extremely high level of mosquito samples in areas of the Borough that have tested positive for West Nile Virus. Maps of the area being sprayed are below.
“The Chester County Health Department monitors the presence of mosquitos infected with West Nile Virus and utilizes strategies to prevent and control mosquito larvae. Despite such measures being undertaken in West Chester Borough, numerous mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile Virus which require mosquito control treatment spray to reduce the risk of transmission. …”
What’s new there from previous wordings (compare to the wording for the release regarding the Sept. 5 spraying of Phoenixville)?
For the first time, the text starts with the phrase “Following the contractual guidelines/agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection…”
This wording is clearly designed to silence the Borough. We have never heard of or seen such a “contractual guidelines/agreement” before. What does, in fact, “contractual guidelines/agreement” mean? Is it a legal contract between the County and the State? Signed by whom and when?
Also note that the expression “which require mosquito control treatment spray” has also crept in. Nothing “requires” spraying; it is a decision made by human beings.
Nothing we have ever heard before suggests that the State obliges the County to spray. We have always understood that the State merely supplies information and guidance but the County makes the decision whether and when to spray. Many counties do not spray and have no mosquito control program at all. No one “requires” them to spray.
And Vector Index levels — to which the public no longer has timely access, since the site that used to have them has not been updated since July 30, and which appear to us scientifically dubious — vary so widely when used to justify spraying that it is clear that spraying is a matter of discretion, not science. Whose discretion? — that is the question.
Now, suddenly we are confronted with a new example of “state preemption,” recalling the claim that municipalities (and presumably the County as well) have no right to put any conditions on the siting, construction, or operation of gas and other pipelines.
In our view, this new example of state preemption runs totally counter to West Chester Borough’s Home Rule Charter as amended with the Community Bill of Rights (section 904) approved by Borough voters in 2015, and notably (A6):
“Right to Clean Air. All residents, natural communities and ecosystems in West Chester Borough possess a fundamental and inalienable right to breathe air untainted by toxins, carcinogens, particulates, and other substances known to cause harm to health.”
Also for the first time, the County press release does not claim to spray only “After exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies….” There we certainly agree: the County has indeed not been “exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies.” In fact, they can’t even tell us where they have larvicided to kill larvae, the chief non-toxic and most effective means of mosquito control.
Instead, the release says: “The Chester County Health Department monitors the presence of mosquitos infected with West Nile Virus and utilizes strategies to prevent and control mosquito larvae.” Of course, we’d like to see more of those strategies. “Kill mosquitos in the water, not in the air!”
The release does not make another change that we have often suggested, in its claim that spraying can “prevent West Nile Virus.” One cannot “prevent” a virus or (in the paragraph just above) “prevent” larvae. One can set out to reduce the number of mosquito or larvae or to reduce the likelihood of disease, but one cannot “prevent” them.
As usual, the release uses euphemisms like “treatment” and avoids the terms “insecticide” and (until the boilerplate language at the end of the release about the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program ) “pesticide.”
These are not semantic quibbles. Like the scientific and procedural claims that often come from the pesticide industry itself and that we have often criticized, these choices of words tend to mislead the public and office-holders into thinking that spraying is a helpful and healthful “treatment.”
See maps of planned spray areas below. These are the same as planned last month, as it happens. We can’t compare to any evolution in “Vector Index” scores, because those are not longer available to the public. To line up the maps (which are on different scales), look for High St. running N and S (tilting some to the left) in both maps or for Fugett Park, the spot of green below the top map and above the bottom map. In the downtown area, Gay St. and much of Market are not on the direct spray route, but the 200 block of E. Market is. And, naturally, spray drifts; if it didn’t drift, it would stay on the streets where the spray truck passes, and the whole point of the exercise is to spread the pesticide around in people’s yards.